Women Huskies down Ducks

Needing a win for a realistic shot at the NCAA tournament that starts March 14th, the Washington Husky women came through in grand fashion with a 88-80 victory over the rival Oregon Ducks Saturday afternoon in front of the season's second-largest home attendance of 5,229 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The win marked the first time Washington Head Coach June Daugherty had beaten Oregon in her tenure in Seattle, and earned Daugherty her 60th career Pacific-10 victory.

"It was a great game," said Daugherty. "We saved our best for last."

Washington (17-10, 12-6 Pac-10) moved ahead of Arizona State with the win and earned a No. 2 seed in the Pac-10 Tournament, which begins March 1st in Eugene, Oregon. Arizona State, meanwhile, fell to the No. 3 seed after falling today to state-rival Arizona.

Coming into the game, the Huskies not only had a lot to play for in terms of standings, but also were forced to play short-handed with starting center Andrea Lalum sidelined with a sprained ankle. That, maybe more than anything else, lit a fire under the home team that Oregon couldn't manage to extinguish all game long.

Giuliana Mendiola led the charge for UW with an all-around terrific game, leading the team in five categories. She scored a career-high 31 points to shatter her old record of 22, and also led the team with eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a game-high 36 minutes on the court.

Mendiola was one of four Huskies to finish in double-digit scoring. Joining the sophomore were Loree Payne (22), Emily Autrey (16), and Kellie O'Neill (12).

Oregon (15-12, 12-6 Pac-10) fell behind early in the contest thanks to the torrid shooting of Payne, who hit for eight points in the first 4:09 to put Washington out on top quickly 12-3. But the Ducks battled back for 12 consecutive points behind three tough shots by leading scorer Shaquala Williams to go ahead 15-12 with 13:22 left in the first half.

That's when Washington put the clamps down on defense. The Huskies held the Ducks to just three points in the next six minutes while Kellie O'Neill, the junior forward from Edmonds, Washington, came off the bench and sparked Washington on another run. The older O'Neill sister on the team hit a straight-away three pointer, got open under the basket on the next possession for a layin, and later drilled another one from long-range as the Purple and Gold raced out to a 27-18 lead.

Oregon cut the gap to five, but Giuliana Mendiola answered the Duck rally with three consecutive baskets to push it back up to 11 and the teams traded baskets for the final 4:29 of the first half as Washington headed to intermission with a 45-33 lead.

The Ducks never again got the lead to under eight points, as Mendiola scored 19 in the second half - including eight free throws in the final 2:44 - to keep the Huskies ahead by a comfortable margin. She finished the game 15-17 from the line.

"Seventeen free throws says a lot about how aggressive she was," said Oregon guard Edneisha Curry of Mendiola. "She had a great game. I can't say anything bad about 31 points."

"She was unbelievable," Daugherty said of her cerebral point guard. "She was like 'get on my shoulders and lets go.' They had trouble with her post-ups and she was able to take advantage of it."

Washington forced Oregon into 21 turnovers for the game, playing tough zone defense that forced the Ducks' post players - usually Andrea Bills and Cathrine Kraayeveld - to kick the ball back out to the perimeter. And from there, Oregon didn't fare well. Williams went just 4-12 from the field, and sharp-shooting guard Jamie Craighead connected on only two field goals all game.

"I thought our defense was exceptional," said Daughtery. "[The team] was inspired to play hard for Andrea with her on the bench. This is a close-knit group and they played hard."

Oregon was led by 16 points apiece from Williams and Bills.

Game Notes:

Wounded Dawg: Redshirt junior Cheryl Sorenson had to be helped off the floor midway through the first half after taking an elbow to the head on a scramble for a loose ball. She sat out the remainder of the game on the Husky bench. The early prognosis on the injury is a concussion.

"I still don't think she knows where she is," said Daugherty after the game, remarking on Sorenson's status.

Un Shaq-like Behavior: Unlike NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, a career 53 percent shooter at the free throw line, Oregon's own version of Shaq, guard Shaquala Williams, takes advantage when given the opportunity to head to the charity stripe. Today she connected on all seven of her attempts.

Senior Farewell: Heather Reichmann, a four-year letter-winner from Seattle, was the lone senior on this year's team. She played two minutes in the game, coming in during the final minute of each half, and grabbed the microphone after the game to give thanks to the Husky fans for their support over the years.

Lalum Update: Injured center Andrea Lalum spent the game on the bench in street clothes, wearing a boot on her injured left ankle. She appeared to be putting weight on it as she walked, and Daugherty said after the game that the injury looks a lot better now than it did two days ago.

"She's been doing an amazing amount of treatment," said the Huskies' head coach. "It's day to do, and we're trying to get her back for the Pac-10 tournament."

Husky Stats:
Points: Giu. Mendiola 31, Payne 22, Autrey 16, Kel. O'Neill 12, Kri. O'Neill 5, Keeler 2
Rebounds: Giu. Mendiola 8, Kel. O'Neill 5, Kri. O'Neill 5, Autrey 4, Payne 3, Keeler 3, Burt 2
Assists: Giu. Mendiola 6, Payne 2, Burt 2, Kel. O'Neill 2, Kri. O'Neill 2, Keeler, Autrey
Steals: Giu. Mendiola 2, Keeler 2, Kri. O'Neill 2, Payne, Autrey, Gio. Mendiola, Kel. O'Neill, Sorenson
Blocks: Keeler, Kri. O'Neill.

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